Chapter

Savage Indignation: Cannibalism and the Parodic

Gananath Obeyesekere

in Cannibal Talk

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780520243071
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520938311 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520243071.003.0004
Savage Indignation: Cannibalism and the Parodic

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Parody for the Maori is also deadly serious for his Other, the European. Sometimes the parody of the European curiosities as faeces would be shared by those on both sides of the cultural divide, temporarily blurring the divide. In most of these situations, parody also becomes a way of dealing with a troubling or incomprehensible situation, for Maori in their dealings with powerful Europeans and for Europeans in their attempts to understand the savage. This chapter discusses parody and satire in the narratives of Maori cannibalism and European curiosity. The narratives of the Maori cannibalism are often satiric inventions that have some basis in Maori cultural reality but are widely exaggerated in highly improbable ways. However, some narratives not only parody the European discourse on cannibalism, but also the indigenous informant's narrative rendering of “Maori history.” These forms of satire are defensive reactions in the early context of European domination and power. The chapter also discusses the banality of cannibalism in the narratives of Europeans. Narratives and popular culture reinforce the banality of cannibalism as well as the truth of it, even when there is no reliable evidence for it. In addition to discussing the parody and banality of cannibalism, the chapter also discusses the role of eyewitnesses in the creation of narratives of savageness. While eyewitnesses are significant in the affirmation of truth, they have the tendency to misperceive and distort an event.

Keywords: Maori; parody; satire; Maori cannibalism; European curiosity; discourse on cannibalism; banality of cannibalism; eyewitnesses; savageness

Chapter.  13784 words. 

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